Saturday, November 30, 2013

It's Holiday Season in Shanghai

     Since it's been awhile to blog I thought I could recap some important beer related activities since my last post. In general 2013 has been a busy year for travel with some great events scattered around the globe. Our participation in Copenhagen Beer Celebration in early May was absolutely amazing! The beers we presented were received well and people were generally surprised with the quality of Chinese craft beer. It was fun to try some beers from some top-notch breweries like 3 Floyds, Anchorage Brewing, Surly, Firestone Walker, Lervig, 8 Wired and of course Mikkeller. We were invited to participate in 2014 but are unable to attend do to some projects underway (more info later in this blog) and some international travel dates already on the calendar. After that we had Shanghai Beer Week and the Sinan Mansions Beer Festival in late May. Both events smashed attendance from the previous year with everyone having a great time at the Sinan Mansions Beer Festival. In June I was invited to judge at Beerfest Asia in Singapore. This event has also grown in attendance with the beer competition exploding to nearly 450 entries. Needless to say it was a rough 3 days judging beer. Unfortunately Boxing Cat Brewery didn't pick up any medals but the categories we entered into weren't exactly suited for our American-style beers. The beer festival site is near the Singapore Flyer and it was a grand time hanging out with a few other Shanghai brewers plus some brewing mates from New Zealand and Australia. Later in June we participated in the Beijing Craft Beer Festival held at Galaxy Soho in Beijing. The 2nd annual festival was massive and we didn't bring nearly enough beer. Each day of the 2 day beer festival we ran out of beer within 4 hours. Not so great but it did allow me to mingle and try some other beers available. It was fun to see more breweries in attendance and see the level of craft beer in China is really on the rise. The following month in the brewery was busy due to Summer beer sales. We installed a new 20 HL Bright Beer Tank to increase our production capacity. This was a fun undertaking to get into our brewery let alone stand the tank upright. Eventually some riggers were brought in to get the tank upright and get the tank into service.

     The Summer rush was full on as we also committed to participate in the Dalian International Beer Festival held in Liaoning Province. In late July we travelled to Dalian for the 16 day beer festival. It's one of the largest beer festivals in China and the world so we had high hopes. We had an 800 square meter beer garden and shared the space with our brewing friends at Great Leap Brewing and Le Ble d'Or. To provide a unique experience the 3 breweries also brewed a collaborative wheat beer at the Le Ble d'Or brewery in Suzhou. We called this beer Wet Dreamer Wheat in English and brewed 5,000 liters for the festival. Unfortunately the attendance at our Craft Beer Garden was very low. We took a chance on this opportunity and realized that the big beer festivals in China are not ready for craft beer yet. In the end the most popular booths were the HUGE international brands that featured live music, neon lights and beer girls under a very big enclosed booth. At least we gave it a shot....Here are a few pics to help get my point across.

     Halfway during the 16 day beer festival I headed to New Zealand for some beer judging. This was a huge honor and my first trip south of the equator. It was an absolute blast with some amazing beers brewed with local kiwi hops. It really opened my eyes to these lovely hops and how versatile they can be in a multitude of beer styles. The hospitality of the New Zealand Brewers Guild was also world class. All I can say is that you have a chance to visit NZ you should definitely go. You should also make sure you give yourself some extra days to explore both islands and see some of the diverse geography of this nation. In early August I returned home to Shanghai after a hectic 3 weeks of travel. Luckily the brewery was purring smoothly along amongst some record breaking heat in Shanghai. The weather was above 40C for 8 days straight and became the hottest Summer in Southern China since they began taking record 150 years ago! After some time in the brewery I took some vacation rest and headed back to see family in the US. It was a great trip to the PNW and I was lucky to see a few breweries and enjoy some wonderful beer. While in the US the results for the International Beer Competition in Tokyo were announced with Boxing Cat Brewery picking up bronze medals for Contender Extra Pale Ale and Sucker Punch Pale Ale. A nice surprise and recognition for our brewery!

     As soon as I got back I had a few days rest before the Kerry Parkside Beer Festival. This one-day beer festival was well attended with some great beers available for beer lovers. It was nice beer festival and allowed our new hire in the brewery to meet some people in the local brewing industry. The rest of September saw us brewing regularly as we experience an increase in beer sales during the Fall all the way until Christmas. In October the 2nd annual Shanghai International Beer Festival was held along the HuangPu River. The 3 day festival was exhausting for vendors but the attendance this year was massive. The entire site was near capacity on Saturday with approximately 12,000 people in attendance. The weather for this festival was pretty good and as you an see the setting is rather unique.

     After a couple weeks of recovery we had our annual Halloween Bash at the Sinan Mansions location. This party is always a great time but it also coincides with my arrival to Shanghai in 2010. It's amazing that I've been in Shanghai for 3 years already! I've had a wonderful time in the city I now call home and have met some fantastic people. The departure of some friends has been a bit rough in 2013 but it's the realization that the city is a bit transient. Luckily I've stayed in contact with most of these special people and even hear a few of them are returning to Shanghai....very excited to see Ron, Juni and Jennings in the next couple weeks!

     The last month we've been cranking out beers at the brewery with some brands such as Mark & Cate's "Catcher" Rye IPA, King Louie Imperial Stout, Black EyePA, Southpaw Winter Warmer and a new beer called Roshambo Session IPA. We're also brewing a new gingerbread beer called Ginger Baker Beatdown. This will give us an extra Holiday Ale for Christmas and provide some good Winter memories. We're also knee deep in construction on a new brewpub. This brewpub will feature a brewery inside so I've been rather busy during the Fall months working on the design of the brewing space and working closely with our preferred equipment provider. Last week I was able to visit HGM Machinery in Ningbo to inspect our equipment and I was very pleased with the quality of work. Take a look for yourself!

     This new brewery is a slightly different concept from Boxing Cat Brewery as the food menu will be much different. We'll also have more taps with a nice selection of BCB core beers plus some unique house brewed beers. I'm really looking forward to opening this new space! Hopefully we'll be able to get the first brews underway prior to Chinese New Year as we're targeting an opening date after Chinese New Year. Opening something near CNY can always be interesting as much of the countries labor force takes time off to travel to their home city. In the end it's nearly a month with people in limbo so the impact on getting anything done can be substantial. Anyway....I'll post some progress as we move the brewing equipment in and get it running. Until then may your pint glass be full of delicious beer!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

April Showers in Shanghai

     The last 6 weeks have been very busy with the beer festival season ramping up and Boxing Cat Brewery participating in several new festivals this year. Before I get into the beer festivals I'll try to recap the last month or so....

     We've done a lot of new brews recently including a few different collaboration brews. The first new batch to hit the brew kettles was Nelson Sauvin Single Hop. This is part of our single hop series as the last one I brewed was Galaxy Single Hop in 2012. This batch will also be split into a separate beer as we're working with a local coffee roaster, Sumerian Coffee, (Sumerian Coffee) to make a coffee beer. The coffee beer will be a bit different in that our goal is to make a lighter colored ale and combine the interesting NZ hops along with some Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Single Origin beans to provide a different coffee beer experience. It's been a cool project to work on as Dave and I have shared the same vision from the beginning. We've captured some cool video footage along the way and think it will educate customers about our unique beverages. Our trials have been progressing well and we'll do one keg later this week to see how we like the small scale results. Here's a picture of us dosing the beer with different volumes of cold coffee.

     In the end we're going to use a liberal amount of coffee as the berry notes of the coffee combine nicely with the hops while having a light caramel note. We've also brewed our Spring Seasonal beer, Brawlin' Belgian Witbier, currently pouring at both BCB locations. This beer is based upon a traditional witbier but I add a little twist by using some organic pink peppercorns. The resulting flavor is light spiciness from the peppercorns as well as the coriander and Belgian witbier yeast. Subtle notes of orange peel make it uber drinkable and a real winner for the Spring weather in Shanghai. The yeast from this beer will hang around the brewery for a few months and we'll continue to brew some Belgian inspired beers through June before switching over to our Summer Seasonal beer (TBD). Another fun project was the collaboration beer for Shanghai Beer Week. I worked with Leon from The BREW and Teddy from Dr. Beer to create an Imperial Pilsner recipe and brew at our brewery in Minhang district. 

     Nearly all the ingredients we used in this beer were donated by our sponsors - NZ Hops, Castle Malting and White Labs. The beer combines the liberal use of several different NZ hops along with a high alcohol content. We hit a home run on the fermentation as the beer has finished at 9.2% ABV. The beer was dry-hopped with Motueka hops and a small amount of Mosaic hops. The aroma and flavor of this beer is amazing with notes of pine and tropical fruit. We're all excited to release this beer during SHBW 2013! (Shanghai Beer Week). We settled on a funny name for the beer, Porky's Revenge Imperial Pilsner, due to recent episode of pigs floating in the Huangpu River. The collaboration idea and the beer name gathered a bit of media attention (Jing Daily) so we're excited for May 17th and the SHBW kickoff party! A few other special beers that we've brewed recently include Hoppy Ending White IPA and Chocolate Stout. Of course our regular products are in production and we've been busy enough to warrant the purchase of another tank or two for the brewery so we can help keep up with the rising demand of beer. I visited a couple equipment suppliers recently and we're close to ordering the first bright beer tank....maybe we can even squeeze in another tap or two at our locations!?!

     We've been busy shipping beer off for competitions and two different beer festivals. I sent TKO IPA, Sucker Punch Pale Ale, King Louie Imperial Stout and Standing 8 Pilsner to Melbourne for the Australian International Beer Awards. This is the 3rd year we've participated in this beer competition and for some reason we had customs clearance issues upon arrival in Sydney this year. I made too many phone calls to get it released from customs and only hope the weather and conditions didn't damage the beer before it sits in front of the judging panel. We also hand delivered some beer to Tokyo for Asia Beer Cup. It seems TKO IPA, Sucker Punch Pale Ale and Ringside Red all made it to the medal round for ABC 2013 so I'm excited to see the final results. The trip to Tokyo was great although I had some stomach issues that prevented me from judging beers...a real bummer and something I experienced just prior to the trip. Oh the joys of living in China sometimes.....

     The keg cooler is a bit more empty than usual as we've shipped kegs to Hong Kong as we're pouring beer at Beertopia Hong Kong (Beertopia HK) on April 13th. It will be fun to check out the Hong Kong market and see how people respond to Boxing Cat beers. They're expecting a great turnout for this festival as the spirit of craft beer is alive in Hong Kong. I'll give a little talk on the Rise of Craft Beer in China as well so no rest for the weary these days! The other beer shipment that left the country is bound for Denmark and Copenhagen Beer Celebration. We're super excited for this festival (Copenhagen Beer Celebration) and will spend some extra time in Copenhagen and checking out the local beer scene. I'm sure it will include several visits to Mikkeller including his new bar in Nørrebro! The opportunity to pour BCB beers on this international stage is awesome and I'm stoked to try some beers from other amazing breweries. 

     My spare time has been spent organizing and promoting Shanghai Beer Week and the Sinan Mansions Beer Festival. Things are coming together nicely and we have a number of events planned for SHBW 2013. You can see a list of the current events here: (SHBW 2013 Events). The designer for SHBW has also worked up some great artwork and it's really cool to see all this develop and have John get it onto the website with Liz helping on the marketing angle. Here's our official banner for SHBW 2013.

     Until next time - May your pint glass be full of delicious beer!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Happy Chinese New Year! Let Spring Begin!

     It's been an eventful couple of weeks with the Chinese New Year holiday giving me a bit of rest and relaxation away from the brewery. It also provided me some time to take a trip to Beijing to visit my friends at Great Leap Brewing and check out their new location...more on that later.

     An exciting event we held at our Sinan Mansions location on January 22nd was the release party for King Louie Imperial Stout. This was the first BCB release party for a new beer and it was a great time for everyone. I was able to give a brief talk about the brewing ingredients we use to make this beer and walk the guests through the flavors of the beer while answering a few beer questions. We had approximately 40 guests sample the beer and it was enjoyable to mingle with the crowd. The "booziness" of the 8% ABV beer provided some funny stories with lots of smiles. You can find additional pictures here: (King Louie Imperial Stout Release Party)

     I was also able to chat with a friend that homebrews as he recently found out his time in Shanghai is coming to an end. Therefore we discussed brewing a batch of beer together at the brewery and settled into brewing an Imperial Brown Ale based upon a recipe he had brewed at home. 

     The following week we held a Brewmasters Dinner at Sinan Mansions. We seated 26 guests for the five course pairing meal while discussing each beer and food pairing as the night rolled on. The food was amazing as Chef Sean hit a grand slam with the food. While each course was outstanding the highlights of the pairing were course 2 & 4. The second course was a beer braised scallop with crispy lemon pumpkin bread pudding along with house cured bacon and poblano chili relish. The beer pairing was Contender Extra Pale Ale and the sweetness from the scallop and the tartness of the bread pudding complemented the tropical fruit notes of the beer. The bacon and semi-spicy chili relish really helped finish off the dish by cleansing the palate. Course 4 was a beast of a dish as it was coffee rubbed beef short ribs with baby spinach, lemon & tangerine gremolata, parsnip mash and a bourbon-sour cherry glaze. The beer pairing was Southpaw Winter Warmer so the coffee and orange peel notes of the beer complimented the dish incredibly well. The bourbon-sour cherry glaze was divine combined with the tender short ribs. I'm already looking forward to our next Brewmaster's Dinner; most likely in May during Shanghai Beer Week.

     Later that week Dave Mast and I brewed Undercard Imperial Brown Ale at the brewhouse. It was a fun day for Dave to brew on a professional system and know that he can drink this beer when he visits Shanghai in May. The recipe was also interesting for me as it allowed us to try a few new processes in the brewery including mash hopping, first wort hopping and adding some chocolate malt to the mash just prior to vorlauf. The staff at the brewery was a bit bewildered by these processes but they took the new techniques in stride as I've been know to throw a curveball their way. The beer is tasting quite hoppy in the fermenter. I've recently dry-hopped the beer with 2 kilograms of Centennial hops so I'm really looking forward to this hoppy, higher alcohol brown ale!

     Just prior to CNY our keg shipment arrived to Copenhagen and the 30 Liter kegs arrived safely so Mikkeller could pour the 2 kegs at their world famous location in the Danish capital city. The reception of TKO IPA and Contender Extra Pale Ale was fantastic as the kegs were kicked in about 2 days time. We even received a little spike in our Ratebeer ratings as the Danish "tickers" invaded the bar. (BCB Contender EPA Ratings) Thanks guys and hope to see you at Copenhagen Beer Celebration (Copenhagen Beer Celebration 2013) on May 3rd & 4th! We're very excited to attend this event and meet beer freaks from all over the world. We'll also get to try some world class beer in an amazing setting. I suspect I'll get some "beer inspiration" and walk away with a few new ideas to bring back to Shanghai....cue a big ass grin! I also intend to bang a few brewers cages and invite them to China for some more collaboration brewing projects. 

      During the Chinese New Year holiday I was able to work on some planning for Shanghai Beer Week and get emails sent out to potential participants. Even though is was during holiday many people responded and expressed interest so I think SHBW 2013 (Shanghai Beer Week) will be massive! The Sinan Mansions Beer Festival on the last weekend of SHBW will also be larger as we're featuring a 2 day festival this year. I'm incredibly excited for these events this Spring due to the interest they're already receiving. 

     I was able to escape the relentless fireworks of CNY in Shanghai and head to Beijing for a couple of days. Oddly enough Beijing was much quieter, partly due to the fact that 9 million people left the city for the holiday. Yes, I said 9 million people! Therefore it was the most enjoyable trip to Beijing I've experienced as traffic was a breeze and taxi drivers seemed to actually want your business. The trip coincided with the release of Yunnan Amber at Great Leap Brewing as Carl and I collaborated on this beer for the second time. The "meet the brewers" event was casual and an opportunity to chat with other beer minded individuals from Beijing. The GLB staff brewed Hop God 120 during the event so it gave guests the chance to see some "live brewing" while sampling the taps. Carl is also excited about his new brewpub coming online this Spring so we checked out the new location near Workers Stadium. It's going to be a SUPER addition to the Beijing beer scene and will allow him to crank out more beer in a wonderful setting. The 10 hl brewhouse looks at home in the building amongst lots of classic looking tile. I'm excited for Great Leap Brewing and look forward to hoisting some beers with them when it opens. If all goes as planned we'll brew a collab. beer on their new system later this Spring.

    The last exciting news is that we've entered the Australian International Beer Awards for the third year in a row. The last 2 years we've picked up some medals so we're hopeful to get some hardware this year. We'll send 3 of our core products including TKO IPA, Sucker Punch Pale Ale and Standing 8 Pilsner. We'll add King Louie Imperial Stout to the mix as I feel this beer has a good chance of placing well. While medals are always nice it's something we cannot expect. However, I can expect to get good feedback on the comment sheets from the International panel of beer judges in the largest beer competition in the Asia-Pacific region!

Until next time...may your glass be full of craft beer!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Week 3 under wraps....Firecracker Imperial Red in the fermenter.

     The past week was not incredibly busy at the brewery as we only needed to brew once. Although this was the case it still felt like an incredibly busy week as many events are scheduled in the coming weeks. We were able to knock out a few more projects in the brewery and schedule some annual maintenance. This is rather rare in China as preventive maintenance is usually something nobody ever considers. I guess this is part my Western approach and something I take some pride in. It also means the brewery runs smooth!

     After knocking out these projects we were able to transfer the last batch of Southpaw Winter Warmer to the bright beer tank. The Winter Seasonal Selection should continue to pour through late February or early March. The Spring Seasonal will be Brawlin' Belgian Witbier so I'll have to coordinate the new yeast shipment during the last weeks of February. The beer transfer meant we had an open fermenter to brew into so we brewed a Boxers Choice beer that has been popular around Chinese New Year. Firecracker Imperial Red is a hoppy red ale that I loosely define as a Pacific Northwest Red Ale. The malt profile includes some light additions of caramel malts as well as a touch of chocolate malt. This malt provides a nice color hue to the finished beer as well as a slight chocolate note. The hops are the major component of Firecracker Imperial Red as we use Centennial hops for late additions as well as dry hopping. If all goes as planned it will pour around Chinese New Year at both locations. The brew day also included a visit from Carl at Great Leap Brewing in Beijing. We were able to taste Yunnan Amber from the bright beer tank and coordinate the shipment of some kegs to Beijing. We're both very happy with Yunnan Amber and think the light tweaks we made to the recipe made it taste even better. The beer has some additional richness while still allowing the black tea notes to come through. I expect Yunnan Amber to pour in the coming week or so.

     The other bright beer tanks have some TKO IPA and King Louie Imperial Stout so our beer lineup will see TKO IPA returning to the taps. TKO IPA is our second best selling beer and a beer that we normally have pouring at each location. The fury of collab brews and some special one-off beers meant this brand took a temporary hiatus....but it's back and tasting nice and hoppy. It's also the top rated beer on Untappd and RateBeer for China! Take a look......

     King Louie Imperial Stout is tasting wonderful as it's very thick and luscious with light notes of smoke upfront followed by coffee and chocolate. The 8% ABV is buried very well in this beer. I'm excited to keg this beer tomorrow and send it directly to our Sinan Mansions location for a VIP beer release party. It should be a fun event with some happy faces at the end of the evening.

     The remaining free time of the week was spent discussing our Brewmasters Dinner on January 29th and planning our Super Bowl Party for February 4th (China time). We've done the Super Bowl party the last several years and it's a fun time watching the game although kickoff is at 7:30 am on a Monday morning. This years party should be good with a breakfast buffet and free flow beers starting at 7am until 11:30am. The price for food and drinks is 200 rmb and if you only want the breakfast buffet the price is 100 rmb. During halftime we're going to have a wing eating contest so I'm hoping some wing lovers show up and provide some additional entertainment. 
     Another project I have undertaken is organizing the second annual Shanghai Beer Week. My friend John helps out tremendously as we bounce ideas back and forth as he builds the website. We're excited for this years events and think we'll have twice the number of participants and events in 2013. Currently we're targeting mid to late May for Shanghai Beer Week but are waiting confirmation on a few items. We plan to extend the events over 8-9 days and continue to have the Sinan Mansions Beer Festival during the last weekend of Shanghai Beer Week (SHBW). Stay tuned for additional information or feel free to check out the website as we publish information ( website is still in beta testing so check back from time to time. In general this project is a labor of love for us as we believe it really helps legitimize the emerging beer scene in Shanghai. We literally pour our free time into this annual event to make the beer community stronger and wake people up to flavorful beer. In the end SHBW is a free promotion to anybody participating in the beer business in Shanghai. Shanghai Beer Week is done with clear intentions to assist in establishing a beer culture in the city we call home. This philosophy is opposite the "zero-sum economy" often seen in China where businesses fight for their "own" in fear that if they don't get "theirs" then "somebody" else will. Often the thought of working together to establish "something" is incomprehensible which leads to all the hardware shops or furniture shops being on the same street. In the end this is a deep conversation regarding East vs. West so I'll step down from the soap box. I just feel lucky that we have some supporters of SHBW that really get this community turns out there are people that understand this vision and they don't think we're totally crazy!

Until next time....may your glass be full of flavorful and locally produced beer!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

More Dark Beers in Production - Week 2

     Well the past week was a bit slow around the brewery as the Yong Fu Lu location is undergoing renovation...and it's delayed by a week. It seems the 1st floor project was more work than anticipated and it's taking longer for the concrete to dry in the cold weather. Hopefully we'll be back up and pouring beers around January 22nd. I'm eagerly awaiting for us to re-open and let people see the changes we've the interior but also the brunch menu!

      For the time being the brewery is packed full of beer...which will actually be a relief since Chinese New Years is approaching and it will impact the production schedule. The brewery will be closed for about a week so this way I won't have to worry about us getting behind and running out of kegs! We began the week by kegging some Contender Extra Pale Ale as well as topping off the 2 wine barrels I discussed last week. I've inoculated each barrel with Brettanomyces bruxellensis and letting the beer age patiently. The kegged version of Contender Extra Pale Ale is already pouring at our Sinan Mansions location and tasting wonderful. It matured beautifully with pleasant pineapple/passionfruit notes and is very might even think it's filtered! The following day we brewed a batch of Donkey Punch Porter. Some people are familiar with this beer as we re-created the brand identity last Fall. Prior to that it was called Black Magic Porter. Same beer just different name...Anyway Donkey Punch Porter is a robust brown porter that uses some extra ingredients to provide a unique flavor. The "extra kick" is a cacao and chili mix that our executive chef has created for me. The spice mix adds a Mexican mole dimension to the beer along with some subtle smokiness. It's a beer that we've brewed at Boxing Cat Brewery for nearly 2 years so I was tickled when I saw a few of these "mole inspired" beers in the US this past Summer.  This beer will be released in early February just before Chinese New Year. Here is our fun little logo for this beer:

     The rest of the week allowed us to work on some projects around the brewery and also take the brewery staff for a little field trip. One of the many crazy things about Shanghai is that you can find almost anything you need if you know the city well. Take Beijing Lu for example....It's a street full of all sorts of lab equipment, stainless steel parts, motors, hardware and hose. It's actually a bit freaky if you watch Breaking Bad....but I regress. You can nearly find everything on this street that you might need to use in a brewery. The tough part is finding the better quality equipment and then negotiating the price with the tiny shop owner. It can be pretty comical as often the thing you need is a phone call away and some chain smoking dude rolls up on his scooter with your desired part. Luckily our small brewery staff can help me out with the negotiating and language barrier and we walk away getting some pretty nice stuff. This trip we bought a new digital scale, pH meter, electronic long probe thermometer, food grade hose and some small stainless steel parts. The grand total for these items was around 2000 rmb or 320 USD. To finish the day I treated the staff to a nice lunch and stopped by to see our brewing friends over at Dr. Beer. It was great to show another brewery to our staff and have a couple beers with Teddy and Alvin. I met up with Teddy later that night for a Belgian beer tasting at Kaiba...but that's a whole different story.

     I previously mentioned we have an upcoming Brewmaster's Dinner near the end of the month. I'm getting real excited about this event and thought it would be good to share the menu and beer pairing for the evening. Take a look at the menu:

     If you're in Shanghai and interested in attending this event you can contact the phone number on the flyer to make a reservation. It's a great deal and the past dinners have been a real blast. Our executive chef will have some time to explain each dish and how it was prepared. I'll talk about the each beer and we'll both chime in about how they pair together. The seating is limited to 20 people so try to make an early reservation if you're really interested as the Brewmaster's Dinners always sell out.

Until next time....may your glass be full of delicious Winter beer!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Rolling in 2013- Week 1

     I have taken a couple weeks off from writing as I travelled for Christmas to the Philippines. It was a nice warm vacation but lacked any flavorful beer as I primarily had San Miguel or Red Horse as the only available options. Hopefully the next trip to the Philippines I can visit the Global Beer Exchange in Manila as they're supposed to have a good selection and some craft beer from America.

     The brewery has been steadily cranking out beer since week 49 with 2 batches of Right Hook Helles and single batches of TKO IPA, Southpaw Winter Warmer plus a batch of King Louie Imperial Stout. This will allow us to keep up with the 4 core brands and keep the Winter Seasonal beer flowing until late February or early March. I'm excited about King Louie Imperial Stout as we brew this once a year. This beer has gained a loyal following amongst stout lovers in Shanghai so it's a joy to brew this beer and of course sip during the cold winter months. We'll look at releasing this beer towards the end of January and will keep people posted via social media circles.

     Just prior to New Year's Eve a massive bottle tasting was held in Pudong with some fellow craft beer lovers. We accumulated 42 different bottles of beer to taste! The selection was very diverse as most of the beers were muled to Shanghai from all over the world. The tasting was sensational and we "only" made it through 36 bottles. Here's a lineup of the bottle aftermath.....Lots of stuff from NZ and AU.

     One particular gem of the evening was a bottle of Sanctification 006 from Russian River Brewing in California. This beer is 100% fermented with Brettanomyces and has amazing complexity and depth. The style of beer is described as a Sour Blonde with the nose of the beer having typical horse blanket aroma from the wild ale fermentation. The layers of flavor were amazing with different fruit notes and some acidity to scrub the mouth. We set this beer aside for awhile to let it develop while also using it as a refreshing palate cleanser to recalibrate our tastes. It worked very well and it's a 2012 beer highlight for me. We also tasted a bottle of Cantillon Cuvee Saint-Gilloise later in the evening and this beer was equally impressive. These 2 bottles of wonderful beer inspired me to get the Brettanomyces bruxellensis I've been sitting on in my refrigerator at home. I acquired these during my last trip to America and I've decided to use these 2 vials (pictured below) to inoculate 2 wine barrels I've used over the past 2 years.

     The red wine barrels have seen 3 different "beer turns" and essentially become "barrel neutral" as they're only providing light oak notes to the finished beer. The beer destined for these barrels is our Contender Extra Pale Ale (formerly called Mosaic Ale). This beer is a light golden ale with some tropical fruit notes from mosaic hops. I think the resulting beer will be very interesting and I'm eagerly awaiting the process of this beer developing over the next several months. The resulting beer will be one of the first sour beers (intentionally might I add) in China.

     The month of January is an exciting month for Boxing Cat Brewery as we're renovating the entire first floor space at our Yong Fu Lu location. The bar is going to be completely redone and will no longer be double sided. This will allow for more space behind the bar as well as improving the seating at the bar. The garden section of the old bar will also allow for more seats. The kitchen will get an overhaul and some new equipment for our ace executive chef and his new menu launch later this Winter. If all goes according to plan the Yong Fu location will re-open on January 14th. The Yong Fu location will have a fresh face as we have a new manager at this location and what I consider to be a top notch beer guy amongst Shanghai beer circles. Some of you may now him as Nick previously managed a Belgian beer bar called De Refter. In addition we hired a marketing person and Liz is doing a great job so far (follow her on twitter @boxingcatbeer. You'll see Liz and her warm Aussie personality around BCB so it's only a matter of time before our regulars get to know Liz & Nick. I'm very excited about the new team we have in place at BCB as we continue to push beer culture forward in Shanghai. To wrap up the month we'll have our Brewmaster Dinner on January 29th at Sinan Mansions. We're currently locking down the menu and beer pairings so I'll have to write about that in the near future. All in all 2013 is shaping up to be a great year for Boxing Cat Brewery!

Until next time....may your glass be full of delicious craft beer!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Tours, tastings and articles - Week 49.

     The week in the brewery was average pace but of course we had some excitement with a few visitors and some unexpected equipment issues. After blogging last week I was able to wrap up an article on the Chinese Craft Beer Scene for The Brewer & Distiller. If you're unfamiliar with this publication it's the monthly trade magazine from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling in the UK (IBD UK). I'm pleased with the content of the article and look forward to seeing the finished 2-3 page article in the magazine come early 2013.

     The week started off fairly normal as we kegged some more TKO IPA and Sucker Punch Pale Ale. This emptied one of the bright tanks and we were able to transfer Ringside Red to the bright tank. We're beginning to brew this beer on a more frequent basis as it's proven to be very popular in the pubs. It's a malt driven lager beer weighing in at 5% ABV featuring some Vienna malt and a small proportion of different caramel malts. The hop bill is European influenced so we have additions of Hersbrucker and Czech Saaz. The taste is complex while still being approachable to people that are only accustomed to pale colored beer. This brand has sold enough that we have designed a standard label for this brand and it looks like this:
     We also brewed more TKO IPA to keep up with demand. I always enjoy brewing this beer as I'm a hophead and the hop aroma while we brew is pretty spectacular. Towards the end of the week our glycol compressor stopped working all the sudden. Luckily it stopped early in the morning before we had begun mashing in the planned brew of the day. Without this compressor we cannot keep the beer tanks cold and cool our wort while transferring to the fermenter. We fixed the compressor that afternoon as our ace mechanic was tied up a bit and in Pudong most of the day. In the meantime I had some visitors at the brewery and was able to show Chase around the brewery and taste some beer with him. He's writing an upcoming article for Hops Magazine (Hops Magazine Online) and will feature Southpaw Winter Warmer as the brew of the season. This is pretty exciting for Boxing Cat Brewery as we enjoy the coverage and of course working with this local trade magazine focusing on beer culture in China. Later in the day a visitor from Taiwan stopped by as she is gathering material and photos for an upcoming book she is publishing on craft beer in China. I'm excited to see Ellaine's finished book although I understand it will be late in 2013. I'll have to buy a copy when it's published and share some details! The social gatherings just kept continuing as I met with Michelle from the Chinese edition of Hops Magazine and some beer enthusiasts visiting from Beijing. Pints were hoisted as we discussed craft beer and the emerging homebrewing culture in China.

     The equipment issue caused a little hiccup in our schedule and kept our tour guests from seeing a live brew in process but these issues are unavoidable. We wrapped up the week by brewing Standing 8 Pilsner and finally kegging some Southpaw Winter Warmer. I've experienced a lot of inquiries regarding our Winter Seasonal beer so I'm happy to report it will begin to pour next week at each location. We were also able to transfer Cat Scratched Celt to the bright beer tank and let it condition for a few days before we release this collaboration beer with The Celt Experience from Wales. This means we'll have two amber beers pouring very soon but they will be completely different as one is lager and the other is a hoppy US West Coast style amber beer. I think this will be fun for our customers having Christmas gatherings soon followed by New Years and Chinese New Years. This time of year there are lots of parties happening.

     I was able to enjoy some US craft beer with a few fellow beer lovers on Friday night and it was a real treat. We shared 9 different beers as the theme was Imperial Stout & Porters. I always appreciate gatherings like this and was thankful Rudy from Kaiba held a table for our impromptu tasting. My favorite beer of the night was Belgian Style Yeti from Great Divide Brewing in the US. Big thanks to Brent for hauling over some bottled beers!

Until next week....May you enjoy some wonderful Christmas Beers!